Raptors have a block party in Cleveland

Raptors forward James Johnson blocks a shot by Cleveland Cavaliers centre Ryan Hollins last night....

Raptors forward James Johnson blocks a shot by Cleveland Cavaliers centre Ryan Hollins last night. Toronto set a franchise record with nine blocks on the night. (US Presswire)

Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

It was only one game — and against a squad that appears poised to have a ton of lottery balls in the hopper next June — but these Raptors looked like fast learners on opening night.

At least in the opening half.

With new head coach Dwane Casey’s vaunted zone defence unlikely to be implemented for a while, the Raptors’ man-to-man capabilities looked surprisingly decent for long stretches against Cleveland.

Toronto held the Cavs to 34.1% shooting through two (15-44) and were fierce in the paint, holding the home side to 11-27 shooting in the paint.

The Raptors protected the rim extremely well, which surely put a smile on Casey’s face in his first contest with the club.

How aggressive were they going after shots? Well, James Johnson and Amir Johnson with three blocks each, teamed with Ed Davis (two) and Jamaal Magloire to turn away nine shots in the first half alone.

That was enough to best the previous franchise record for most blocks in a season-opener (eight), set way back on Nov. 3, 1995 — the inaugural Raptors contest, vs. New Jersey.

The second half was a different story, however.

The Raptors failed to pick up any more blocks as Cleveland roared back and mounted a challenge and the Cavs managed to get their shooting percentage up to 41.2% for the game by making 20-41 attempts (48%) in the final two quarters.

DEMAR, WHERE WERE YOU?

DeMar DeRozan was invisible through three quarters (six points in 19 minutes) but he sure showed up in the fourth.

DeRozan hit a clutch three with Cleveland threatening and converted some pretty plays to help lead the Raptors to victory.

Anthony Parker did a good job holding him in check early, but DeRozan scored nine in the quarter.

NO NERVES

Casey admitted before the game that his second go-around as an NBA head coach feels quite a bit different than his first rode with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“As far as nervous in terms of making decisions and running the show? I’m not nervous about that at all. I’m far more confident in what I want to do then my first time around.”

Casey had a veteran-laden group in Minnesota and never was able to mold them to fit his personality. That’s not the case with the Raptors, a team filled with young players.

CASEY HIGH ON IRVING

Casey likes what he sees in No. 1 overall draft pick Kyrie Irving.

“He’s a guy who has a great command of the basketball in his hands,” Casey said.

“He’s capable, once he starts to knock (down three point shots), he’s going to be a terrific, terrific player. He’s an attack-mode point guard.”

Irving got the start for the Cavs even though Byron Scott had made it seem during the pre-season that veteran Ramon Sessions would keep the gig, at least in the early days of the season.

Cavs head coach Byron Scott said after further review, he preferred playing the rookie Irving with more seasoned teammates.

“I think (putting him with Anthony Parker, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao) really helps him if he has that veteran type of group that he’s dealing with,” Scott said.

What did Scott tell Irving before the game?

“I just told him you only get to do this once where it’s your first NBA game,” Scott said.

“I told him enjoy the moment but then when the ball is thrown up it’s get back to business which is being competitive and running the team.”

Irving finished with seven assists against only one turnover, but shot a dismal 2-for-12 for six points.

MORE CAN-CON

Magloire became the first Canadian-born player to suit up for a Toronto NBA team since Gino Sovran did so for the Huskies back in 1946.

Magloire was briefly out at the same time as Brampton’s Tristan Thompson but did not guard him.

Thompson said he went up to Magloire during a stoppage and thanked him for paving the way — along with Steve Nash — for players like himself.


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